“My motivation for all my companies has been to be involved in something that I thought would have a significant impact on the world.” – Elon Musk
A visionary leader of unimaginable sorts, Elon Musk is an exemplar in the field of technology entrepreneurship who continues to inspire a generation of innovators and creators. With his rockets successfully launching and returning, Tesla transforming the world with clean energy and his evolving ventures into the Hyperloop technologies, one thing is certain- there’s a lot one can learn from the life and career of one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our times.
Here are 5 essential takeaways from the life and career of Elon Musk:
1. The power of persistence
The power of persistence in the face of adversity is the true mark of a champion and Elon Musk proves to be a brutal example of this quality. He was once quoted saying, ‘I will spend my last dollar on these companies. If we have to move into my wife’s parent’s basement, we’ll do it.’ And that’s what it takes to succeed in the vision you have. The ability to stick with something and the drive to make it happen, no matter what the world will tell you. The moment you decide to doubt yourself or worry about failing, you begin losing the ability to tackle challenges and soon enough, you wear out. Whereas Musk deals with failure by extensively preparing for it. He says, “Failing is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.” When he started SpaceX, he anticipated failure and created a contingency that if they didn’t get the first rocket to succeed by the time they’d spent $100 million, the company would be closed down.
Instead of fearing failure, a successful entrepreneur must learn to embrace it and think of failure as a stepping stone to success.
2. Focus on your dreams
If Elon Musk had the ability to turn his ‘radical ramblings’ into successful business models, there’s no reason why you should expect less of yourself. One key takeaway from his successful career is his potential to dream big, and then making those dreams come true. Back in 2008, when he introduced the world to the concept of an electric car, he was laughed upon and the entire notion was deemed unrealistic. Now, with the depleting natural resources globally and the grave need for cleaner fuels, Tesla is being termed as the future of the automobile industry. Imagine if Musk had paid attention to those who thought his dreams were outlandish. Thus, the important thing to learn here is to not be afraid to dream big because if you have faith in yourselves, you will make them come true!
3. There’s no substitute for hard work
Throughout his career and through various interviews, Musk has continuously pointed out that running a company would demand more working hours and sacrifices than a comfortable desk job under someone else. When Elon Musk started his first company, Zip2 with his brother Kimbal Musk in 1995, he worked round the clock and often slept in his office. He says, “Work like hell. I mean you just have to put in 80 to 100 hour weeks every week. This improves the odds of success. If other people are putting in 40-hour workweeks and you’re putting in 100-hour workweeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing, you know that you will achieve in four months what it takes them a year to achieve.” In the end, if you want to taste success, you have to work hard for it!
4. Talent over numbers
When it comes to hiring someone, Elon Musk believes in the philosophy of taking time to find the right talent for the job rather than just hiring multiple people to do it. In a podcast with entrepreneur James Altucher, he said, “It is a mistake to hire huge numbers of people to get a complicated job done. Numbers will never compensate for talent in getting the right answer (two people who don’t know something are no better than one), it will simply slow down progress, and will make the task incredibly expensive.”
So the next time you are hiring someone for a job, make sure to spare a thought for this bit of wisdom.
5. Think beyond money
Throughout his career, Musk has reinforced the importance of changing the world with your innovations. Altucher quoted him saying “Going from PayPal, I thought: ‘Well, what are some of the other problems that are likely to most affect the future of humanity?’ Not from the perspective, ‘What’s the best way to make money?”
If you want to do great things, then it becomes important to focus on the difference you’ll make in the world, rather than just financial success.
Elon Musk’s success can be largely attributed to the unconventional leadership traits that have made him an inspiration to all the aspiring entrepreneurs in the world, and though these are just glimpses from his eventful career, there is still much to learn from his journey to change the world!
In the end, the key to success is to be different and to be different, you don’t just have to do things differently, but also follow them through to the end with passion and dedication!